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Teacher pay: Which states pay teachers the most?

Teachers across the country are rallying for better pay and more funding for their classrooms, and in some cases, they are striking for it

Educators in West Virginia and Oklahoma have walked off the job, and teachers in Colorado are threatening to do the same.

The average public school teacher salary for 2016-2017 was $59,660, according to the National Education Association, the largest teacher’s union in the United States. That number was up from $58,353 in 2015-16. The NEA estimated that the average salary for this school year (2017-18) will be $60,483.

In the report, average teacher salaries ranged from a high in New York ($81,902), California ($79,128), and Massachusetts ($78,100), to a low in Mississippi ($42,925), Oklahoma ($45,292) and West Virginia ($45,555). 

The study showed that while salaries went up an average of 2 percent from school year 2008-2009 to the estimated salaries for school year 2017-2018, when adjusted for inflation, overall teacher salaries decreased by 4 percent during that time period.

One-fifth of new public school educators leave the profession by the end of their first year of teaching, according to the NEA. Nearly half will leave within five years. 

Low starting wages and pay increases that fail to match others in jobs that require similar education and experience is often cited as a reason for leaving the job. 

In no state are teachers paid more than comparable college graduates, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The EPI reports that, on average, teachers make 77 percent of what other college graduates make.

While several organizations track teacher salaries by state, the numbers can be a bit different depending on the criteria used to gather the information. Some organizations include private schools in the calculation and some do not, for instance.

Here is a list of teacher salaries for 2017 from the NEA:

  1. Alabama: $50,391
  2. Alaska: $68,138
  3. Arizona: $47,403 
  4. Arkansas: $48,304  
  5. California: $79,128 
  6. Colorado: $51,808  
  7. Connecticut: $73,147 
  8. Delaware: $60,214
  9. District of Columbia: $75,692 
  10. Florida: $47,267
  11. Georgia: $55,532 
  12. Hawaii: $56,651
  13. Idaho: $47,504
  14. Illinois: $64,933 
  15. Indiana: $54,308
  16. Iowa: $55,647
  17. Kansas: $49,422
  18. Kentucky: $52,338
  19. Louisiana: $50,000
  20. Maine: $51,077 
  21. Maryland: $68,357
  22. Massachusetts: $78,100
  23. Michigan: $62,287
  24. Minnesota: $57,346
  25. Mississippi: $42,925
  26. Missouri: $48,618
  27. Montana: $51,422
  28. Nebraska: $52,338
  29. Nevada: $57,376
  30. New Hampshire: $57,522
  31. New Jersey: $69,623 
  32. New Mexico: $47,122
  33. New York: $81,902
  34. North Carolina: $49,970 
  35. North Dakota: $52,968
  36. Ohio: $58,202
  37. Oklahoma: $45,292 
  38. Oregon: $61,862
  39. Pennsylvania: $66,265
  40. Rhode Island: $66,477 
  41. South Carolina: $50,000
  42. South Dakota: $46,979
  43. Tennessee: $50,099
  44. Texas: $52,575 
  45. Utah: $47,244
  46. Vermont: $57,349
  47. Virginia: $51,049
  48. Washington: $54,433
  49. West Virginia: $45,555 
  50. Wisconsin: $54,998
  51. Wyoming: $58,187

For the 2016-2017 school year, the National Bureau of Labor Statistics has the average salary for high school (secondary) teachers between $42,970 in Oklahoma and $87,260 in New York. Those numbers are culled from an average of salaries paid to all types of schools and other types of businesses that hire teachers.

The BLS found that the median annual pay for elementary school teachers, excluding special education teachers, was $57,160. For kindergarten and elementary school teachers it was $56,900. For preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers together the median annual wage was $55,790. 

A median wage is the wage at which half the workers earned more than that amount and half earned less.

Here is the NBLS list of teacher salaries by state for secondary teachers. The list does not include salaries for special education teachers.

  1. Alabama: $49,790
  2. Alaska: $85,420
  3. Arizona: $48,050
  4. Arkansas: $50,990
  5. California: $77,390
  6. Colorado: $54,460
  7. Connecticut: $78,810
  8. Delaware: $63,640
  9. District of Columbia: $64,420
  10. Florida: $51,800
  11. Georgia: $56,850
  12. Hawaii: $59,250
  13. Idaho: $48,540
  14. Illinois: $68,380
  15. Indiana: $52,670
  16. Iowa: $54,490
  17. Kansas: $50,470
  18. Kentucky: $55,300
  19. Louisiana: $50,700
  20. Maine: $52,940
  21. Maryland: $69,070
  22. Massachusetts: $76,170
  23. Michigan: $62,910
  24. Minnesota: $65,290
  25. Mississippi: $46,370
  26. Missouri: $51,720
  27. Montana: $51,290
  28. Nebraska: $55,870
  29. Nevada: $57,210
  30. New Hampshire: $60,070
  31. New Jersey: $76,430
  32. New Mexico: $56,060
  33. New York: $83,360
  34. North Carolina: $46,370
  35. North Dakota: $51,400
  36. Ohio: $60,810
  37. Oklahoma: $41,880
  38. Oregon: $69,660
  39. Pennsylvania: $66,020
  40. Rhode Island: $67,620
  41. South Carolina: $53,960
  42. South Dakota: $41,980
  43. Tennessee: $51,390
  44. Texas: $57,830
  45. Utah: $55,540
  46. Vermont: $61,590
  47. Virginia: $69,890
  48. Washington: $64,760
  49. West Virginia: $46,560
  50. Wisconsin: $57,320
  51. Wyoming: $59,780

The National Center for Education Statistics has kindergarten through grade 12 teachers making an estimated average salary of $58,064 in current dollars, meaning not adjusted for inflation. 

The state with the highest average 2016-2017 salary for teachers on the list was New York with $79,637. California was second with $78,711. At the bottom of the NCES list was Oklahoma with an average salary of $45,245. South Dakota teachers made an average of $42,668, and Mississippi teachers made an average of $42,925.

Click here for the complete list of NCES statistics for teacher salaries from 1969 to 2017. 

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